Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for December, 2013

Goodbye, 2013

[ 40 ] December 31, 2013 |

From all at LGM, please have a happy, safe New Year celebration!


The Slow Forward March of Progress

[ 90 ] December 31, 2013 |

Some good news for the new year:

In what the Pentagon called a “significant milestone” in the effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military announced Tuesday that the United States had transferred three Chinese detainees to Slovakia.

The three were the last of 22 ethnic Uighurs from China who were captured after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and brought to Guantánamo.

Admittedly, I’m sure Mitt Romney would have done the same thing. Now, if the Republicans had nominated somebody who thought “double Guantanamo” represented a sensible approach, that would be a different story.

A pettiness

[ 118 ] December 31, 2013 |

“Law Grad Working Retail” is a new blog, authored by a 2013 law school graduate who got no-offered by a fancy firm (This means he wasn’t offered a post-graduation position as an associate, after he spent the summer following his second year of law school working at the firm. Such an offer is normally the only way to get an entry-level lawyer job with such firms).

At present, he is spending the Christmas rush season selling perfume at an upscale Chicago department store. The blog seems to be down at the moment, but it is full of mordantly hilarious and sometimes touching vignettes of life as an over-educated and under-employed twentysomething, trying to make sense of what remains, given lifelong exposure to propaganda about the economic value of higher education, a profoundly confusing situation.

The author’s co-workers quiz him regularly on legal matters:

“LawGrad, you a lawyer,” Shaina began, “can Julian sue the store?”

“For what?”

“You know, accusing him of stealing because he’s Mexican.”

“But he was stealing.”

“So he can’t sue?”


Bitterness sometimes threatens to overwhelm him, such as when he realizes that a photograph behind the perfume counter features the very building in which he spent the summer after his 2L year, or when he ducks behind that counter to avoid being seen by a former classmate. But for the most part he retains a healthy sense of perspective on his situation (which includes the practical challenges of living in what sounds like a fairly dreadful $800 per month apartment with his wife, another underemployed recent college graduate, in the Ukrainian Village section of Chicago.)

The blog’s December 28th entry is the best one yet, describing the emotions of people who come to the counter not to buy anything, but to use a bit of the store’s samples of classic colognes to capture a redolent memory of a lost love, or some other moment from their past.

I hope the author finds success and happiness, perhaps as a lawyer, but perhaps more plausibly in the literary world.

Anyway, I let the author know I admired his work, and gave him some unsolicited advice about avoiding repeating some sexist remarks that marred some of his early posts. In the sort of coincidence that poets love and logicians loathe, I shortly thereafter got a call from a very prominent legal academic, who has been vigorous supporter of my work critiquing law schools. Prof. X wanted to give me his view on my two posts last week regarding Prof. Nancy Leong. That view is:

(1) Leong was wrong to file a bar complaint against one of her on line critics.

(2) A lot of Leong’s scholarship is bad.

(3) A couple of Leong’s more recent pieces on remedies, in particular one in the Virginia Law Review, are quite good, and represent the kind of work legal academics in particular can do which may have practical and/or scholarly value.

(4) I don’t know what Leong’s motives were for blogging extensively about her online critics, and filing a bar complaint against one of them, and I shouldn’t have imputed crass careerism as a primary motivator for her actions.

(5) In short, while some of my criticisms of Leong’s actions were justified, I mishandled those criticisms in a way that distracted from legitimate issues (the abuse of the bar’s disciplinary process; what sort of legal academic work has value, and how much should students be expected to subsidize it., etc).

It seems to me on reflection that Prof. X’s observations regarding this matter are just, and that I should apologize to Leong for imputing base motives for her actions, although I still believe that she was very much in the wrong to file a bar complaint against an online critic of some of her scholarship. And so I do so now, in the spirit of the coming New Year.

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

D.H. Lawrence

Some Favorite Reads Of 2013

[ 42 ] December 31, 2013 |

A far from exhaustive list of some of the strongest journalism I read this year:

I’ve forgotten to include many more good ones than I’ve remembered to include, so fill me on on what I’ve missed.

If your whole year in Lemieux has been a tl;dr, my favorite of my own writing from this year:


Shifting Blame

[ 76 ] December 31, 2013 |

Is there an industry as profoundly immoral as the apparel industry, where rich people in rich countries can create a production process where poor people in poor countries die and the fashion and apparel companies take not even the first step toward accountability?

No, there is not.

A Hero Has Passed

[ 36 ] December 31, 2013 |

I’m not too big on the idea of hero, but there is something about the person persecuted for making others’ lives better that gets to me. One of the greats passed away yesterday. Dr. Kenneth Edelin, absurdly convicted in 1975 of manslaughter for conducting an entirely legal abortion, has died. In Boston, an all-white jury convicted this black doctor on such flimsy grounds that his conviction was soon overturned. He continued in his advocacy for reproductive rights and especially for the poor. A great man.

“Redskin” and the historical record

[ 122 ] December 31, 2013 |

Yesterday I quoted a column by George Will, which concluded with the absurd implication that because “Oklahoma” is derived from a compound of two Choctaw words which taken together mean “red people,” Pajama Boy and his ilk are engaging in liberal fascism etc. by trying to force the Washington football franchise from changing its now-offensive name. That post links to an article which demonstrates conclusively that George Marshall, who changed the team’s nickname to Redskins from Braves, was an 180-proof racist in regard to African Americans. The article, however, also strongly implies that Marshall made this change because the word redskin was more offensive to non-racist sensibilities than the team’s former name.

The commenter Bloix pointed out in comments that there seems to be no real evidence for this implication, or for the article’s assertion that the origin of the name is connected to the practice of scalping:

The linked article does not explain the history of the name. It merely observes, accurately, that George Marshall was a racist who hated black people. The history of the name is this:

In 1930, Marshall bought a failing team, the Newark Tornadoes, and moved it to Boston. At that time, pro football was a marginal sport, far less popular than baseball (and college football, horse racing, and boxing, for that matter), and teams generally couldn’t afford to build their own stadiums. Marshall’s team played at the ball park of the then-Boston baseball Braves, and Marshall gave the team the same name – it was common for football teams to take the name of the baseball team whose park they played in.

After one season, the team left the Braves’ field and moved to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and Marshall needed to change the name. He decided to stay with the Indian theme he’d started with Braves, both for continuity and because his coach, Lone Star Dietz, claimed to be part Sioux. The name Redskins had the added advantage of echoing the name Red Sox.

That’s the origin of the name. Although Marshall hated black people, there’s no indication that he had any animosity towards Indians, and as noted he hired a coach who he believed was part Indian (there’s evidence today that Dietz was not Indian, but Marshall wouldn’t have known that). There was a strain of Southern racism that had romanticized views of the noble red man, and Marshall may have shared those attitudes.

It’s worth noting, IMHO, that today the Redskins have many loyal fans from the African-American community of DC, and that the Redskin logo is, so far as I am aware, the only logo in any major sport that depicts a dark-skinned person respectfully. You can travel around the DC area in football season and you will see dozens of people prominently displaying – on hats, jackets, sweats, and car stickers – a portrait of a handsome and dignified man whose skin color is the same as theirs.

BTW, the claim that “redskin” originates from scalping or skinning is false. It is absolutely true that some state and local governments offered bounties for Indian scalps, but there are no instances of the use of the word “redskin” in that context.

It’s been established the origin of the word “redskin” is first found in early 19th century translations of Indian statements in meetings and negotiations with whites (both in English and in French, where it appears as peaux rouges). For example, when representatives of a number of Indian tribes met with President Madison in the White House, one of the Indian chiefs made a statement that includes a phrase translated as “red skins.” Not surprisingly, the Indian leaders had no word for Indians collectively, and they settled on the term meaning “red skin” in their various languages. So the word originated in statements made by Indians to refer to themselves in dealings with whites.

James Fenimore Cooper picked it up and put in the mouths of his Indian characters — entirely respectfully –in his Leatherstocking Tales (e.g. “The Last of the Mohicans”) and from there it entered the vernacular of ordinary Americans. The negative implications did not originate with the word, but with people who later adopted the word.

I’ve linked to the leading article on this issue in comments on this blog in the past. Anyone interested can find it easily – it was written by a Smithsonian Institution anthropologist and linguist whose name escapes me.

The article Bloix references is here.

There are of course excellent reasons for changing the franchise’s name, but the claim that George Marshall changed the team name from Braves to Redskins because the former wasn’t racist enough for him is apparently not one of them, and I should have considered Tomasky’s argument to that effect more critically before linking to it.

Coal Mining Deaths, 1900-2012

[ 23 ] December 31, 2013 |

In yesterday’s post on the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, Joe B in comments pointed us out to the official MSHA statistics on mine deaths between 1900 and 2012. It’s remarkable. In 1907, 3,242 people died in coal mine accidents. That doesn’t include black lung or other occupational disease. And it is almost certainly underreported. The numbers begin falling in the 30s and collapse in the 60s and 70s. Although the job is still quite dangerous today, it’s nothing like the bad old days.

What changed? First, the success of the UMWA gave workers some voice on the job, although as we have seen in the labor history series, the leadership did not always care that much. Second was mechanization and moving people out of underground mining. Third was an activist federal government getting involved in workplace safety and working conditions.

And this gets us back to my utter contempt for those who think Rand Paul or any kind of libertarianism has anything positive to offer as a solution to our problems. If you think libertarianism is good, you either don’t care about dead coal miners or have never thought about dead coal miners (or loggers or ship workers or farm workers or whatever). The latter is forgivable ignorance at first, but once you aren’t ignorant, it isn’t forgivable. Big government is the best thing to happen to this country and if it were up to me, I’d make it a lot bigger and much more intrusive into the conditions of work.

“On the fatal third time, Santa Anna breached the wall and he killed them one and all”

[ 134 ] December 30, 2013 |

Oregon wins. When I arrived at the University of Oregon in the autumn of 1992, Nick Aliotti was the linebackers coach.  He was shortly promoted to defensive coordinator, and after several years of tumult settled into the job permanently in 1999. Tonight he retired, after his defense scored 14 against the Texas Longhorns while allowing only seven.

Goodbye Coach Aliotti, and thank you.

[EL]: This is a good time to remind everyone that in fact the Mexicans did not kill everyone in the Alamo. The women and Tejanos were spared, the slaves set free. It is only in Texas mythology that everyone dies. I love telling my students this. Even in Rhode Island, they all think everyone was slaughtered. Also, Hook ’em Ducks!

[RF] Loomis is well known to be an apologist for Texian behavior in Texas’ First War of Treason in Defense of Slavery.

[EL] Farley reminds me of some of my favorite times blogging. Josh Trevino, in between shifts as a foreign agent for Malaysia and who know what other governments, used to go ballistic when I said that slavery was the major reason for Texas secession. Of course he was partially right–anti-Catholicism, racism, and white supremacy were also major reasons. Anyway, I wrote this back in the day.

The Rise of Irish Whiskey

[ 114 ] December 30, 2013 |

Even if we agree that Irish whiskey is not the equivalent of that made in Scotland or Kentucky, it’s still usually worth drinking and you are probably consuming more than you used to drink.

A Thing that Actually Exists

[ 103 ] December 30, 2013 |

Are your eyes deceiving you or are you really looking at Ted Cruz giving the “THIS GUY” finger point to a Constitution tree sprouting pre-historic-sized butterflies?

Nope. It’s the second one.

Aside from the coloring book being hideously ugly, it is also batshit crazy. Can a coloring book– an inanimate object–be batshit crazy? Well, when the object in question is a coloring book about Ted Cruz, the answer is apparently “yes.”

End of the Year Linkage

[ 34 ] December 30, 2013 |

Some links for the penultimate day of 2013…

Page 1 of 2012345...1020...Last »